Last Tuesday, Michael Brandon Hill allegedly entered a Georgia elementary school with more than 500 rounds of ammunition, an AK-47, and a clear intention to end his life and the lives of those around him. Fortunately, the 20-year-old came in contact with Antoinette Tuff, a compassionate bookkeeper who ultimately talked the young man into surrendering before anyone on the premises was physically hurt.
After Hill's arrest, reports about his history of mental illness surfaced: He'd been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, among other things; earlier this year, he pleaded guilty to charges of terroristic threats after vowing to shoot his brother Timothy in the head on Facebook.
Last week, Timothy appeared on Piers Morgan Tonight to talk about his estranged sibling, saying that his brother's behavior had changed dramatically once he'd hit adolescence. One time, Brandon—they'd called him by his middle name—set a fire in the Hill's attic while eight people downstairs slept. Another time, their mother woke up to find Brandon hovering over her with a butcher knife, forcing her and their stepfather to lock up all the knives in the trunk of a car.
Over the years, the family had to contact the local police more than a dozen times about Brandon's increasingly erratic tendencies. He was committed involuntarily in 10 different instances, and doctors responded by shifting his medication, but his behavior was more than the family could handle or any bureaucratic arm could accommodate. (“We even brought it to judge's attention and they just didn’t want to do nothing,” Hill told WSB-TV.)
However, Timothy's takeaway from all this was somewhat surprising. When Piers Morgan asked his guest if he'd felt that his family was betrayed by the system, Hill said no, but that "I feel like there's just a whole lot more they could have done." Fair enough. But then he suggested that "rich, famous people" who reach out to the victims of tragedies should instead reach out to "people that have mental disorders and can wind up doing something he did."
Certainly, if Antoinette Tuff's actions proved anything, it's that empathy can very truly save lives. Yet when Piers Morgan asked Hill about why he'd been "angry" seeing Tuff receive a thank-you call from President Obama—which Hill watched on Anderson Cooper 360 from the green room—he seemed upset that the US leader gave her attention. "I'm pretty sure she's been thanked by 100s and 100s of people," he said. He acknowledged his gratitude, but didn't think the President should be using his time to thank her. "I honestly did not see it necessary for President Obama to call her up when he could have been focusing more on what could be done to prevent things like this."
A clip of Timothy Hill on Piers Morgan here:
[screenshot via CNN]
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